NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – On Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway joked that on Friday, the conference would become TPAC, the Trump Political Action Conference. The results of the straw poll proved that her joke had become a prophecy.
“In many ways, Donald Trump is the conservative movement right now, the conservative movement is Donald Trump,” Jim McLaughlin, president and partner at McLaughlin and Associates, declared, introducing the results of the straw poll.
A whopping 86 percent of respondents said they approve of the job that Trump is doing as president, while a full 55 percent said they strongly approve.
More tellingly, however, a full 80 percent said they agreed with the statement “President Trump is realigning the Conservative Movement.” Only 15 percent of CPAC attendees who took the straw poll disagreed, and with the support for Trump’s presidency, it seems they think Trump is changing the conservative movement for the better.
A full 81 percent agreed with Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily suspending refugee immigration from seven Muslim countries (commonly attacked as a “Muslim ban“). A whopping 91 percent favored cutting off federal funding for sanctuary cities, and 75 percent favored Senate Republicans cutting the filibuster and “going nuclear” to approve Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.
Finally, 70 percent said they approve of President Trump “using Twitter to communicate more directly with the American people.” Interestingly, a full 28 percent disapproved — many of whom must have reported approval for Trump and agreement that he is realigning the conservative movement.
While the conference, sponsored by the American Conservative Union (ACU) and featuring prominent conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation, always leans Republican, very rarely does any political figure receive such high marks of approval. It is extremely revealing that Trump was so popular with a majority of respondents saying they see him as “realigning” the conservative movement.
Nevertheless, not all conservatives are enamored with the president. Indeed, many attendees I spoke with, including someone in leadership at ACU, suggested that many Trump skeptics were “in the closet,” so to speak. Conservatives who see Trump’s “realignment” of the conservative movement as a bad thing were less likely to get an invitation to speak, and even less likely to speak about it publicly, especially at CPAC.
Many of these skeptics may not be “Never Trump,” and many might even be hopeful about Trump’s presidency, but they did not feel at home at CPAC this year. Many might find ways to criticize the media’s harsh treatment of Trump and the horrifying trend of Democrats opposing the president’s cabinet nominees likely in order to keep the Republican Congress from presenting an alternative to Obamacare.
In the early days of the Trump presidency, politics is more divisive than ever, and those conservatives who want to wait and see how Trump does before hitching themselves to the train for 2020 feel disenfranchised at CPAC — the very conference which was largely dominated by Trump skeptics and opponents last year.
What a difference a year makes!